On the Shelves: 7/6/06

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My weekly look at select comic books being released Thursday, 7/6/06. The full shipping is list available at ComicList.

[NOTE: Not all of these titles will actually arrive in all stores. If your LCBS offers a pre-ordering service, be sure to take advantage of it. If not, find another one; or try Khepri.com or MidtownComics.com]

PICK OF THE WEEK

Second Wave: War of the Worlds #4
BALLANTINE BOOKS
Flight Vol 3 GN, $24.95

For all the praise the first two volumes of this anthology has received, the second one remains buried in my to-read pile. I’ve flipped through it several times and it’s certainly a visual treat, but the lack of a strong thematic connection between the stories makes it less of a must-read for me. It’s a coffee table art book slumming in TPB clothing. That said, from a business perspective, the latest volume’s reported 20,000 pre-orders blows away what the first two moved under the Image banner, despite widespread critical acclaim, and confirms that even the major direct market publishers are small potatoes in the mainstream market and an exclusive deal with Diamond Books is a terribly short-sighted move for any publisher serious about reaching beyond the direct market. Interestingly, Ballantine is repackaging the first two volumes, so the Image editions will officially become collector’s items any day now.

BOOM! STUDIOS
Talent #2 (Of 4), $3.99
Second Wave War O/T Worlds #4, $2.99

ADVANCE REVIEWS: Talent, which has already landed a Hollywood deal, continues to impress with its second issue, deftly balancing its obvious cinematic aspirations with the more nuanced requirements of sequential art. Christopher Golden and Tom Sniegoski are weaving a number of intriguing sub-plots into their conspiracy-laced thriller, and Paul Azaceta makes it all go down easy with a visual flair the film adaptation’s producers would do well to study. It’s a bit pricey at $3.99, but it’s worth it. *** The further Second Wave puts the Martian invasion into the background, the more it continues to impress, as Michael Alan Nelson wisely narrows his focus by spotlighting the effects on the ground as America begins to come apart at the seams, a la post-Katrina New Orleans writ large. Chee’s background-light artwork is efficient, never getting in the way of the story while occasionally nailing an emotional beat with a well-timed silent panel or just the right framing of a key moment. Second Wave is unexpectedly first-rate.

DARK HORSE COMICS
Archenemies #4 (Of 4), $2.99
Conan & The Songs Of The Dead #1 (Of 5), $2.99
Dark Horse Twenty Years, $0.25

Archenemies wraps up just in time as the previous issue felt a bit cramped and uneven, like maybe it was originally intended to be a six-issue series but Dark Horse would only commit to four. It’s been fun, but I suspect the whole may end up being a bit less than the sum of its parts. *** I’m not familiar with Joe Lansdale’s work, but he worked with Tim Truman on Jonah Hex a while back, and Dark Horse is promoting this latest mini-series as “the grittiest, roughest, downright meanest Conan story ever seen in comics,” so I’m all over it! *** A $0.25 pin-up book celebrating Dark Horse’s 20th anniversary is a cool deal, especially with the likes of Eric Powell on Star Wars, Adam Hughes on Hellboy, and Joss Whedon making his “artistic debut”.

DC COMICS
All New Atom #1, $2.99
Detective Comics #821, $2.99
Jonah Hex #9, $2.99
Teen Titans #37, $2.99

I wasn’t expecting much from the all-new Atom, especially with John Byrne on art and Gail Simone, who’s yet to click for me, writing from “ideas and concepts developed by Grant Morrison”, but its Brave New World preview was actually pretty good, so it’ll get a three-issue trial run. *** Now that James Robinson’s drawn-out crossover has officially hit the reset button on Gotham City, writer Paul Dini steps in and is reportedly going to be telling done-in-one, standalone stories focusing on the “detective” aspect of the Dark Knight — imagine that! — with the spotlight on Bruce Wayne in this first issue. *** Oh, Jonah, I wish I knew how to quit you! Actually, I’ve just realized that there’s several titles on my pull list that deserve to be dropped before you, and I figure DC’s going to pull the plug long before your 18th issue anyway, so you and your generally satisfying done-in-ones are safe for now. Happy trails! *** So far, so good for OYL Teen Titans, but I’m gone as soon as Robin’s little science experiment comes front and center. Unless it fails, in which case I’m good.

EVIL TWIN COMICS
Action Philosopher T/S Red LG, $17.99
Action Philosopher T/S Red MED, $17.99
Action Philosopher T/S Red XL, $17.99

Every smart creator should consider the benefits of merchandising, especially relatively low-cost/high-margin items like t-shirts and shot glasses, great potential sellers at conventions for fans who already have your comics and newcomers alike.

FANTAGRAPHICS BOOKS
Eightball Pussey TPB New Ptg, $9.95
Hate Annual #6, $4.95
Insomnia #2, $7.95
Monologues For The Coming Plague SC, $18.95
They Found The Car, $7.95

One of the more common debates in comics is about Marvel and DC loyalists who only buy comics from their favored publisher and how they’re “killing comics”, and yet in almost every comic shop I’ve ever been in, Fantagraphics books (not just the porn) are given their own section instead of being mixed in alphabetically with everything else. Fact of the matter is that some publishers have successfully branded themselves as reliable purveyors of a particular style or genre of work, and that concept isn’t limited to comics. (The PIXAR logo on a movie suggests a certain level of quality that “from the producers of Shrek,” or even Disney, doesn’t.) The downside of this is that sometimes a particular brand can be a barrier to the larger general audience, overshadowing works that might have some appeal outside of the usual demo/psychographic. ie: I loved Jason‘s Why Are You Doing This? but since I rarely check out the Fantagraphics section (both in the store and on each week’s shipping list), I would have likely missed his latest effort, The Left Bank Gang (coming out next month), because I don’t yet associate him with their output. It’s a Catch-22 marketing issue that most comics publishers have yet to wrap their heads around and there’s no easy answer, though credit to both Fantagraphics and Wizard for putting Jason in front of the latter’s audience.

IMAGE COMICS
Death Jr Vol 2 #1, $4.99

Death Jr. is an exception to my new trades-only policy for anything published by Image, because the first mini-series was really, really good and, IIRC, it came out on time.

MARVEL COMICS
Beyond #1 (Of 6), $2.99
Franklin Richards Son Of A Genius Super Summer Spectacular, $2.99
Incredible Hulk #96, $2.99
Marvel Westerns Kid Colt And Arizona Girl, $3.99
Thing #8, $2.99

Dwayne McDuffie teams Spider-Man up with some random B-list characters in what sounds like a scaled-down Secret Wars, including, it would seem, the return of the Beyonder. He’s joined by former Marvel Team-Up artist Scott Kolins, whose work has always seemed rather plastic to me, and in the time it took to write these two sentences, I lost all interest. *** I love these Franklin Richards one-shots Marvel’s been doing. *** The second arc of the entertaining “Planet Hulk” story kicks off, and I am fully onboard with Pak’s Hulk…In Space concept and hoping it remains the character’s setting for years to come. *** Like Franklin Richards and last year’s Marvel Monsters, Marvel Westerns have put the fun back into funnybooks. *** It’s the final issue of the ill-advised Thing ongoing series — repeat after me, Marvel: “Mini-series only for B-list characters without a clear, distinctive and sustainable hook.” — but I’m jumping onboard at the end purely for the poker game.

MR COMICS
Revolution On The Planet Of The Apes #5 (Of 6), $3.95

One of the better licensed comics on the shelves right now chugs along, and as an old school PotA fan, I couldn’t be more pleased with it.

VIRGIN COMICS LLC
Devi #1, $2.99

Last week’s free preview issue was a solid read with some impressive artwork, and someone in the blogiverse nicely summed up Devi as the Indian Wonder Woman. Devi certainly has potential, but if it doesn’t quickly reach beyond that shorthand description and bring something more to the table, the US direct market won’t be interested. Of course, the US direct market isn’t really their target audience, so whatever success they have here will be considered gravy, an approach most comics publishers would do well to emulate. It’ll be particularly interesting to see which character, Devi or Wonder Woman, makes it to the big screen first. My money’s on Devi.

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